Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday Quote: A Short Road to Perfection

It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection-short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.

I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.

We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic-not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings-but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound-we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.

He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.

I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim.

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first-

  • Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
  • give your first thoughts to God;
  • make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
  • say the Angelus devoutly;
  • eat and drink to God’s glory;
  • say the Rosary well;
  • be recollected;
  • keep out bad thoughts;
  • make your evening meditation well;
  • examine yourself daily;
  • go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

(Cardinal Newman, Meditation and Devotions, p. 285)


I have a ways to go still, but I liked the simplicity of this and its focus on the interior life rather than on glorious achievements.

3 comments:

sea glass hearts..... Laurie said...

Hi Willa
We are driving up from San Diego to Mammoth on Tuesday to go skiing until Sunday.
Do you live along that route?
You visited my blog when we went to Big Bear skiing and said you lived in the Sierras. I was wondering where. It would be fun to meet you.
Laurie

Willa said...

Laurie --

I looked it up -- Mammoth isn't that far from us as the crow flies, but by road it would take you way out of your way, it looks like : (. We're on Highway 168 going northeast from Fresno. It's too bad!

Faith said...

Willa, this was the perfect thing for me to read today!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.